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20 Feb

Allow things to take time

Datum: 2017-02-20 22:40

There is so much to do. We have a to-do-list of con­sid­er­able length already and are often asked to add more things to it. We receive new tasks when a col­league asks us to do some­thing, when a client calls, when a sup­pli­er e‑mails us, when we come to think of some­thing we mustn’t forget”.

If we start doing sev­er­al things at once and do a lit­tle on each task, it is easy to get the feel in that we aren’t get­ting any­where and not fin­ish­ing any­thing (which might in fact be true). And this sen­sa­tion does not only appear to be a feel­ing. Har­vard Busi­ness Review pub­lished a visu­al­iza­tion cre­at­ed using data from the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty-mea­sur­ing soft­ware Res­cue­Time a while ago, where two people’s work­ing-meth­ods dur­ing a typ­i­cal work­day were com­pared; one per­son did one thing at a time and the oth­er skipped back and forth between tasks (which is referred to as mul­ti­task­ing). In this spe­cif­ic exam­ple, the mul­ti­task­ing per­son only com­plet­ed half as many tasks as the one who focused on one thing at a time. It might not be based on a full-blown sci­en­tif­ic study, but the visu­al­iza­tion does give food for thought.

Doing one thing at a time is preferable

When things are busy” and you are tempt­ed to do sev­er­al things simul­ta­ne­ous­ly (”since you just have so much on your plate right now”), it is impor­tant that you make an effort to only do one thing at a time, and remove any­thing that dis­tracts you, so that you give your­self the best pre­req­ui­sites for being able to focus and get things done.

And when it comes down to it, we can do the same even when we are not under pres­sure. If you con­tin­u­ous­ly deter­mine in one way or anoth­er which task that is the right one to do right now, then you will be able to do it whole­heart­ed­ly and with con­cen­tra­tion, and with­out think­ing of what you are not doing and what tasks that will have to wait a lit­tle while longer.


Yes, why? Well, at least to me, it is an enjoy­ment and derives me great plea­sure to do some­thing whole­heart­ed­ly and prop­er­ly; to see some­thing grow and devel­op through effort and per­sis­tence. The qual­i­ty of what we do will also be less than it could be if we mul­ti­task and do many things simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. We become more stressed, feel scat­tered, we do a lit­tle here and there but noth­ing sub­stan­tial, and we prac­ti­cal­ly flood our minds with par­al­lel and con­flict­ing impres­sions, which makes us even more stressed.

Do this

So, how then do we down­size our doings and curb our mul­ti­task­ing ten­den­cies? Well, we can begin by doing the following:

  • Close or min­i­mize all win­dows on your screen oth­er than that which you are cur­rent­ly work­ing with.
  • Close all pro­grams which you are not using at the moment.
  • Max­i­mize the win­dow for the e‑mail which you are cur­rent­ly in the process of com­pos­ing so that you can­not catch a glimpse of the sub­ject lines for all the oth­er e‑mails in the inbox which are await­ing your attention.
  • Turn off all audi­to­ry noti­fi­ca­tions and pre­views for recent­ly received e‑mails (obvi­ous­ly).
  • Put away all oth­er papers and place an emp­ty sheet of paper at the top of every pile you have on your desk, so that you do not risk being dis­tract­ed when you hap­pen to see a text about some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from what you are try­ing to work on right now.
  • Close the door (if you have one) so that you are left undis­turbed (to a greater extent).
  • Get out of the office and sit some­where else where there is noth­ing oth­er than what you are cur­rent­ly work­ing with that could dis­tract you.
  • Close your­self in your own bub­ble” and shut the rest of the world out by putting on head­phones, and turn on some music you like or white noise” which you enjoy lis­ten­ing to.

Pri­or­i­tize what you have prioritized

It is when we are most stressed out that we need to sim­pli­fy and down­size what we are doing and what sur­rounds us the most, since then we will at least not be more stressed by all the sen­so­ry stim­uli we are tak­ing in (visu­al, audi­to­ry, et c), and we might even decrease our stress-lev­els and actu­al­ly per­form bet­ter in what we do. If we direct all our focus and ener­gy towards com­plet­ing one task it will get done much faster than if we keep doing a lit­tle here and there on oth­er tasks simultaneously.

Focus­ing on one thing at a time and get­ting rid of all dis­trac­tions takes prac­tice and deter­mi­na­tion for me, and I have to be firm in my res­o­lu­tion to take what­ev­er reper­cus­sions focus­ing on just one task and clos­ing every­thing else out, might have. But, it is def­i­nite­ly worth the effort.

What is your favorite method?

What is your best trick to only work with and focus on the task which has the high­est pri­or­i­ty right now? Leave a com­ment below!